45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’

45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’

Use these 45 ways to avoid using the word ‘very’ to improve your writing.

Good writers avoid peppering their writing with qualifiers like ‘very’ and ‘really’. They are known as padding or filler words and generally add little to your writing.

According to Collins Dictionary: ‘Padding is unnecessary words or information used to make a piece of writing or a speech longer. Synonyms include: waffle, hot air, verbiage, wordiness.’

Adding modifiers, qualifiers, and unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, weakens your writing. There may be times when you need them, and when you do, use them. If you choose strong, appropriate nouns and verbs, you will need to use them less often.

This post gives you 45 ways to avoid using the padding word ‘very’.

Three Telling Quotes About ‘Very’

  1. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ~Mark Twain
  2. “‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.” ~Florence King
  3. “So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” ~Dead Poets Society

45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’

45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word 'Very'

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Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 6th January 2014

294 thoughts on “45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’”

  1. Oops. Sorry. I just realized the idea was to get rid of the modifier, “very”. Thank you. Exceptional. (not just “very good”.)

  2. The Mark Twain quote does not imply that an editor would delete ‘damn’ AND insert a different (stronger) adjective.

  3. This has long been a quirk of mine. Words really, very, even very very bug me. I have longed stopped using . I figured if it is good, very good doesn’t help, or really fine isn’t necessary when fine is the pictured word. I like your vocabulary to upscale the use of adjectives. Thanks

  4. This just encourages verbosity, which is worse than whatever you were condemning. If a word most suits what you’re going for and is euphonious, then that’s the word you should use.

  5. Ray, how would the advice to not use “very” + an adjective, substituting instead a single word for “very X,” be encouraging verbosity? By reducing a two-word phrase to a single word seems to me to be the antithesis of verbosity.

    Also, I am not clear on your preference for euphony in a word. Unless the text is meant to be spoken out loud (e.g., poetry), I think euphony is no better than secondary to precision of meaning.

  6. As you can see the above is related to expression or conversation between someone. Simple word used by people, not everyone knows the word “feeble”. Try saying it to people who are not strong in their vocabs. How the reaction like. If “extremely” were to add in before an action of a simple words does that consider an error?

  7. The fierce hatred of a very woman–J M Barrie; The very blood and bone of our grammar– H L Smith; The very essence of truth is plainness and brightness–John Milton.

  8. “very loved” is replaced by “adored.” Love is supposedly a complex emotion humanity has spent thousands of years attempting to articulate properly. If something is “very loved,” was it even loved in the first place?

  9. Excellent in all respects…opened up a new door in my mind…
    Who is this Bella person above…some ancient, furious, atrocious, …. well, you get the point I think. I have emailed you separately for info on your programs…Thank you

  10. Thanks Amanda for sharing this. I am keen to start using this superb list of words in my own content writing.

  11. I’m not really sure I like this. It’s always nice to have options as a writer, but I don’t like being told what I should ‘avoid’ saying, because what if words that are more simple are the words that fit what you are writing about more accurately? I wrote a story from a child’s perspective once; ‘atrocious’ and ‘jubilant’ aren’t really something that would fit a four year old’s vocabulary. It all depends on what you’re writing about.

  12. Quite a nice article, very colourful. But even as I type these humble words, the machinery is trying to censure me for not spelling in American English. I mean, it’s a lost cause, you know – I mean – you know – isn’t it? Even the machine is trying to censure me, censor me, vilify, suppress, cavil, indoctrinate, besmirch, diminish, disparage, dispraise and berate. Oppobrious, dudes.

  13. Olivia D. Schuster

    Oh my goodness this is amazing! I love it! I saved the picture so I can remember the words!!! 😀 Thank you!!

  14. Godel Fishbreath

    Very valuable, I bookmarked it.
    and then went back and considered. I had also gotten the advice that the more shorter, Germanic words are the stronger. Which … this .. goes … against.
    But still a valuable lesson, and I am keeping that bookmark.

  15. Humor changes proper useage. I find especially when I’m being sarcastic that the very things I usually avoid fit neatly there.

  16. Actually the contextualization matters a lot and should be put into consideration, meanwhile note has been taken on the ’45 ways to avoid using the word very’

  17. Wasn’t good in school failed everything– system just passed me for hell of it and this affected me terribly in foster care horrible a hearing upbringing age 61 Help me any you can thank you!!

  18. This was an interesting post. I never thought about how many times I use the word very and now I will try to use other words to eliminate the word very?

  19. Patricia McCale

    I have a very limited vocabulary and have been working very hard on learning new words. Thank you so much for giving me some new much needed ammunition!

  20. While I do agree that very anything should be reconsidered, I would not take the extreme position that it is never appropriate in writing. I opine that the author agrees, and wants only to encourage more descriptive words when very would dilute the message by introducing emphasis, where none should be necessary. If it is, it is. But sometimes there are degrees, as in love. A good test would be to ask yourself if something is extremely so. If it is, substitute another word.

  21. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Stephen King. -ly words should also be used sparingly….or not at all.

  22. As a rather new blogger, your article was helpful to me – I would say “very helpful” but I will refrain. Thanks for the share.

  23. This little entry actually contains two pieces of advice:

    One is to leave out ‘very’, which in most cases will serve to strengthen the force of the adjective. If you tell me someone was ‘very upset’, I’ll suspect them of putting on a show. If you tell me they were ‘upset’, I’ll see the feeling as genuine and, if I was the cause, be more likely to feel upset myself.

    The second is to enrich your vocabulary by using a greater variety of adjectives. This is also sound advice.

    But I don’t agree that (1) and (2) are the same thing. Substituting adjectives is not a good way to avoid the use of ‘very’. Those adjectives have their own peculiar nuances and should only be used where they are really appropriate. To say ‘I was very happy’ is quite a different matter from saying ‘I was jubilant’, and ‘I was jubilant’ should only be used when there was real jubilation, not mere satisfaction with a wished-for outcome. Once-powerful adjectives like ‘feeble’, ‘anxious’, ‘hideous’, ‘tiny’, and ‘ancient’ have become standard in the speech of many, to the extent that they are in danger of being worn out through overuse. I would avoid them unless necessary.

    So avoid using ‘very’, and try to enrich your vocabulary – but don’t confuse one with the other. They are different animals.

  24. If you’re being literary, the chart is useful. If you’re being precise, it’s not. Something can be very cold without being freezing, or very bad without being atrocious. There aren’t merely conditions and their extremes; there are gradations, just as there are gradations of literacy.

  25. I already use some of these words, but I have a tendency to combine them.
    For example : “scalding hot” , “dazzlingly bright” , “ravenously hungry”, “freezing cold” .
    Is that correct, or is it bad form ?

  26. Thank you for your very informative and wery well redacted article. I was very surprised by reading the very first paragraph and noticed you weren’t actually using the word “very” which was very good because Mark Twain and Florence King were very precise by saying what they said.

    This article (which is very informative) has helped me a LOT to replace the word very, so my writing will be richer, in fact I think that it will very rich from now on.

    Again many thanks and hope you are doing very well.

  27. What a resourceful post?! There are so many words we end up using more out of habit and that doesn’t really help when you want to write something crisp. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Verily I say unto you, don’t use the “v” word (and we don’t mean you-know-what is the full word)

  29. I’m interested indeed about this program of yours and I would lid to updated as well as often as you’ll be adding more lessons.

  30. Very, very, very clever article, or should I say “Brilliant!” As a 2nd grade teacher I receive many “Very” papers in order to fill up the pages of otherwise 1/2 page papers. Now I know what my next lesson plan will cover, thank you!

  31. I disagree with this. The whole thing. Very ugly and hideous are different. If you choose to say something is ugly it is ugly, there are four letters and has a hard g, which sounds ugly. If you say something is hideous it isn’t the same as very ugly so you’re not writing the original thought you had. This is an exercise in using a thesaurus to write instead of how you think about words.

  32. I love this! Me and my friend Abby have been making new creative sentences with these amazing words!!!! THIS IS DEFINATLY A INSPERATION #livelife #amazing #hashtag

  33. I see that I’m in the minority here as to the usefulness of this chart. Mark Twain said it best, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”

  34. I agree “very” should be avoided, but worse are “rather” and “somewhat” and similar mealy adverbs. Also, what is wrong with just not using “very?” Why do we have to find a substitute? “Neat” is enough, “immaculate” is too much. The problem with “very” is its breathlessness. Replacing it with another breathlessness is just as bad.

  35. Loved this. Also how about synonyms for those two hideous over-used words “awesome” and “amazing.”

  36. This made me laugh out loud!so many varied reactions to the written word! Loved it for the power to bring out so much and so deeply .

  37. I’m sorry to be a kill-joy but your advice for many of the words in the table above gives me another ‘very’ good reason not to subscribe to a paid writing course. Many of your examples are not truly synonymous. ‘Very cold’, for instance, is most definitely not the same as ‘freezing’. Further, some words – like ‘poor’ for example – have more than one meaning. What a great disappointment; indeed, a ‘very big’ let-down.

  38. I use some of those words often. While we are at it, I am not as annoyed when people use “very”. I am more annoyed when I hear people say “super”. I hate that people say it in every sentence. “Oh, it’s super good”. What does that mean? “Oh, that’s super awesome.” It’s such a lazy American English sentence. Also, count how many times you hear “like” when people are talking. It’s redundant and again it’s a meaningless filler. “Oh I’m like super excited about that movie coming out tomorrow. It’s going to the super coolest movie, like for all times. I will probably like going to see it with Jamie, Jason and Dwayne. You know that super cool dude? He’s like a total heart throb and I’m like super frozen whenever I see him.” One more, what does it mean when people say “I personally think, as an individual…”, or “My personal opinion is…” What are you talking about?? You’ve just said, me, myself and I. It does not emphasize the point you are making. It’s clumsy and an utterly waste of space and time.

  39. This is extremely helpful, considering reports and papers that has to be written. Saved this table and will definitely go over it later when i have a better chance!! 🙂

  40. Hi, I like see you have post different from “very” . To change a word it immaculate. -neat. I like that. Smile I need use it . Thank.

  41. This is fine, unless you want to write like people talk, in which case the word should not be avoided. How many times a day do you hear someone say ‘squalid?’

  42. Guilty as (self) charged! Thank you for the including the reference table. I’ve been working on my long-time overuse of this word for the past year and definitely making some progress. New ideas and tools such as this article and table have been a tremendous help in continuing to improve.

    Thank you!

  43. no, no, and no. the substitute word in many instances cannot replace the original, for instance silent cannot replace quiet. One is total the other is conditional.

  44. Agreed. The word is a crutch. Thank you for pointing this out. It gets used to the point where people don’t realize how much they use it.

  45. Really you are great to help other in correct use of words in English. I appreciate you, like you.

  46. “it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen”. In modern usage that is precisely how the word is used. “Very tired” is not only less tired than “exhausted”, it has a different quality, and it is more tired that tired. They are not synonymous. No word should be overused – especially the breathlessly superlative alternatives that you offer.
    Michael Allen

  47. … then why do the words in the right hand column sound better when preceded by the word ‘very’?

  48. Because I have used that word so much, it will be a struggle to stop. However, because of the way it was characterized (as lazy), I will try and remember to eliminate the useless word from my vocabulary!

  49. BWAHAhahaaaa! Dammit!….

    (I was typing and about to use the phrase “very much” and vaguely remembered this “45 ways to avoid ‘very’ ” meme; Googled it and found my phrase wasn’t covered… )

  50. The overuse of the word very is not the problem, for it reflects the lack of word skills beyond the level of a 5 year old. Simple words for simple people. Does the very idea of using very in a sentence in order to describe a simple word; very disturbing to the average reader. Very perplexing. Why? I find the overuse of very, very invigorating to say the least; which is the least I can say on the matter of the over abundant use of very. Varying degrees of saturation can be accomplished by place very in various points in a paragraph throughout various sentences. Vicarious! I have very on my mind. I have very on my mind.

  51. I am passing this useful article on to my teenage daughter who is attending high school next year. I am sure she will find it EXTREMELY useful. 🙂

  52. The Sphinx character in Mystery Men wasn’t just mysterious; he was terribly mysterious…

  53. The last quote (the “woo women” quote) I distinctly recall being said by John Keating (as played by Robin Williams) in Dead Poets Society. Was the character himself quoting Kleinbaum?

  54. I am also bored with the word ‘wonderful’. Any writer who is awake can find a better way of describing a person, a place, or a thing. Nice observation, and thanks.

  55. Now, if I can get all those on the inside of my cuff, or taped to my forearm like our football quarterbacks, e-very-thing will be TERRIFIC!!!!

    On the other hand, I believe Mark Twain said, “I like my words short and simple.” It’s how one puts ’em together that separates use of language from the truly memorable.

  56. The only problem I have with this list is that some of the substitutions lack the nuance of the first word. For example, immaculate is far past “very neat,” on the cleany-bug scale in my opinion.

  57. Sandra Lee Vahey

    Wow!!! This is great! I have always wanted to write but have hesitated because I don’t know a lot of the rules and do’s and don’ts to go ahead and take a chance.

  58. This attack on “very” was entertaining and useful. Now somebody ought to take on the modern-day fad words “icon” and “iconic.” which have been horribly, mindlessly overused over the last 20 years (search “icon” in Google Ngram viewer and you’ll see this).

  59. wow it was something new. I maintain blogs and don’t know how many times i did this mistake of using VERY. Thanks for this. Its not everyday that I found something totally new. Kudos.

  60. Amanda,

    Thank you for this post. I constantly try to improve my writing skills as there really is no excuse for not finding the time to do so.

    Doing the same thing over and over again has the same result so I want my blog to be better, and more than telling a story, it is also about learning the words I could use.

    Being from a non-native English speaking country, that fact does not stop me from becoming better.

  61. dobby the house elf

    Superb and Sagacious, from now on,I will try to replace the commonly used words into these incredible words that really should be used more often

  62. Rather interesting topic you’ve introduced us to. But I think the word very is still needed in English. You know, nowadays most of people don’t use words like exquisite or perilous, but use very+ adjective instead. But if we are talking about writing something, yes, it will be superb. See? I am already using your advice =)

  63. The N.H. Kleinbaum quote is somewhat mis-attributed. It was from the film “Dead Poets Society (1989)” written by Tom Schulman (and I am pretty sure he kept them in his script to his off-Broadway play (2016)). Kleinbaum wrote the novelization of the film in 1989, but those words were first in the film script.

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